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Dr. Young Orthodontics of Monmouth & Ocean County provides this article explaining the consequences of mail order aligners.

Mail order orthodontics are often touted on social media throughout Monmouth & Ocean County. Just because they worked for one person, will they work for everyone? Are there consequences of not having a dentist or orthodontist examine the mouth first? What can happen if orthodontics are performed without x-rays?

In the beginning, when clear plastic aligners were first applied to straightening teeth, the Invisalign system was the only product available. That was because Align Technology literally invented the process that became Invisalign. Although this company has provided service to millions of customers worldwide and has invested significant amounts of research and development into improving aligner technology, there are many competitors that have piggybacked onto their success with procedures and appliances that look similar, but are significantly less sophisticated in their approach. One of these inferior methodologies is “mail order” aligners.

Mail Order Orthodontics?

Straightening teeth is an orthodontic procedure. Only a skilled dentist or certified orthodontist has the expertise to diagnose, fit, adjust and monitor an orthodontic treatment. In preparation for straightening teeth, a dental professional first examines the mouth carefully, uses x-rays and observation to determine why the teeth are crooked in the first place and plans an adjustment that accounts for the shape and size of the teeth, the jaws and the skull. None of these preliminary steps take place with mail order aligners.

Instead, patients are sent a DIY kit to create a mold of their teeth. Taking quality impressions is a learned skill, something that dental practitioners do on a regular basis. Members of the public are likely making an impression for the very first time. It is hard to imagine how the results could compare to digital images taken straight from the patient’s mouth.

Next, the mail order alignment patient snaps a selfie. This picture of their teeth and the impression might be the extent of the information that goes to the aligner manufacturer. While a dentist may create the initial orthodontic plan, there is no follow-up, no adjustments to the treatment based on progressive results, and no way to determine whether damage might be done by trying to move the teeth through the bone.

The Potential Consequences of Mail Order Aligners

And this is where the problems come in. Orthodontic procedures actually end up softening the jawbone as the teeth are moved into new positions. If the original plan is failing to work, teeth can actually end up in much worse shape than they started. A dentist adjusts treatment along the way to correct any orthodontic errors that crop up. Mail order aligners instead operate along the lines of wear it and hope for the best.

It is also very common with orthodontics for teeth to require slight reshaping in order to fit in their new positions. This procedure is called interproximal reduction, or IPR. Rubbing off slight amounts of enamel to make space for moving teeth is not a procedure for amateurs, so mail order aligners simply skip this step. Any dentist or orthodontist will tell you that this results in an inferior final result.

In the end, a patient’s mail order aligners may work just fine. They may also cause the unexpected loss of teeth due to underlying complications. Even worse, if DIY aligners fail, the patient gets to pay again to fix the results — this time with a trained dentist they should have consulted in the first place.

The research and time invested in a professional orthodontic treatment plan, developed in person using braces or Invisalign, and monitored on a regular basis, results in a far superior product, compared to an anonymous mail order dental plan.

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